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By C. Antonio Romero

SAN FRANCISCO, 29 OCTOBER 2007—By now, the media mill has ground away at the news of the FEMA fake news briefing on the wildfires in California. For those not in the loop, the gist is this: FEMA decided that the most effective and efficient way to run a press conference was to replace reporters with members of their own communications staff, write the softball questions themselves, and declare victory thanks to the lessons learned after Hurricane Katrina. Their only execution error, it seems, was allowing real reporters to dial in but not ask questions.

This behavior is of course outrageous, if completely typical of the whole sick crew running things in Washington at the moment, and plenty of people are railing against it. But sometimes keeping things light is as instructive as the deep dark drill-down into the real death and destruction at stake in an event like this.

So, without further ado, here's a list of the top five metaphorical casualties consigned to the fire by this risible un-event:

  • Jeff Gannon. Why should the right-wing bother planting former male prostitutes as closeted right-wing shills, when they can just remove the media bulldogs from the equation entirely?

  • Privatization. The whole military contractors thing having not worked out so well, it looks like the executive branch is pulling various functions back into government. Presumably, the mainstream press stepped up to complain because they were offended by being left out; in an era of never-ending privatization of government activities, they thought "Why didn't we get the contract to disseminate that video news release?"

  • Referential integrity. Terms like "press conference" and "media briefing" implicitly imply the existence or relevance of "press" or "media". These appear to both be, if not dead, at least dropped from the domain referenced in the corridors of power.

  • Yes Men. Or, rather, "The Yes Men." When the powers that be start hoaxing us at this level, there's no room left for old fashioned media jammers—and in fact it may be worth bringing them into the policy establishment.

  • IntelligenceThe Washington Post reports that John "Pat" Philbin, FEMA director of external affairs, who was in the loop and "should have stopped" this event, has now been made head of public affairs at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.  We can now set appropriate expectations for evertyhing the public hears out of the intelligence community. (No Plame, no flame, no blame.)

On the other hand, we now understand why White House Press Corps veteran Helen Thomas is indispensable. She's been around so long, she's one of the few things we can be sure isn't fake (even in film and TV, she's the go-to girl for casting directors seeking just a soupçon of Barthes' effet de réel.)

Unless, of course, the White House is collaborating with Disney to make animatronic versions of familiar reporters. Watch for positive, if slightly robotic, coverage of Gulf War II 2.0 (aka World War V), coming to Iran , and your TV, in September 2008.

C. Antonio Romero is the Nouveau editor of

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